SI Vault
Edited by Robert W. Creamer
September 20, 1971
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September 20, 1971


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Gordie Howe, who retired last week after 25 seasons in the National Hockey League, had an almost invisible off-ice personality, and his fame, such as it was, never came close to reflecting the enormous extent of his ability. " Gordie Howe? Oh, yeah, the hockey player" would be a standard response from an average U.S. sports fan more interested in baseball, football and basketball, and maybe even in things like golf and auto racing, than in ice hockey.

Yet Howe is one of the half-dozen or so truly superior athletes of all time, as far beyond the very good hockey player as the storied names—Babe Ruth, Red Grange, Bobby Jones, you know the list—were beyond the second-best in their sports. And he has been outstanding for an astonishingly long time, an All-Star in 22 different seasons. It is difficult to imagine NHL hockey without him.

One almost irrelevant memory of him curiously persists. Some years ago he made a television commercial in which his two small sons, on skates and in hockey uniform, stood side by side protecting the goal. Howe, huge as a bear in contrast, was gently trying to poke the puck past the two little boys. The grace, the control, the persistence, the implied insistence that the boys pay total attention to what Father Bear was doing with the puck somehow seemed to sum up Howe as a hockey player. He was so much more than anybody else.


Dave Williams, the University of Houston golf coach, is disturbed by a current move to reduce the number of athletic scholarships and limit those to athletes demonstrating financial need. Williams says it should be the other way around: athletic grants-in-aid should be increased.

"The way I look at it," he says, "rich folks and middle-income people pay for most of the schools we build, most of the churches, most of the hospitals, most of the things necessary to keep things going. Let's not do anything to hurt them, like denying their sons athletic scholarships because they are affluent. Those are the people who keep the bread on the table.

"Competition makes the world go round. We would never have gone to the moon if it hadn't been for Russia. We would never have had a great golf team at Houston if Fred Cobb of North Texas State hadn't reached the moon as golf coach. We wanted to beat him. Texas wanted to beat us, and they did it this year. This is what it's all about.

"Some of the schools want to cut back. Let them, but don't let them cut everyone back to their size. This should be an individual matter for each university. Awarding scholarships on a need basis has been tried and has proven to be a failure. Why continue it?"


Chuck Wellsand, a halfback who scored 22 touchdowns last year as a junior at Valparaiso High School in Indiana, was banned from interscholastic sports by the Indiana High School Athletic Association when he married in December. Wellsand went to court, arguing among other things that he had been scouted by coaches from 15 to 20 colleges and his chances of getting a college education through a scholarship depended to a considerable extent on his playing football in his senior year.

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